I almost didn’t visit Killarney at all. Suffice to say, Killarney is a notorious tourist trap, the base camp for the Ring of Kerry, a loop road traversed by coach buses and rental cars full of foreigners. Experiencing the hospitality of Pa an his family at the Súgán I didn’t regret making a short stop in Killarney and actually extended my stay another night. Tourist or no, I enjoyed the company of the group of international travelers and nights on the town where the locals were mainly entertaining themselves during the off-season. On 27 January 1998 though I did what I actually had planned for my visit to Killarney, visit Killarney National Park which also proved worth the time.
I’d intended on hiking through the park but Pa convinced me to rent one of his bikes which proved wise since I was able to cover more ground and get away from main clusters of tourism. Not that there were many people there to enjoy this sunny day in the low season. The large swathes of asphalt by the entrance were blissfully free of tour coaches. I pedal to several of the main attractions including Muckross Abbey, ruins of 15th-century Franciscan monastery which contain a fantastic yew tree and the 60-foot high Torc Waterfall. Mostly I just pedal around leisurely – I’m not in the best cycling shape – enjoying the sun reflecting of the lakes upon which swans swim and men fish.
I should mention now that I wasn’t traveling entirely alone. I brought with me a small plush otter who I’d often place in front of landmarks and photograph him for a kind of Where’s Waldo effect. The friend who gave me this otter purchased him at museum in Newport News and as the otter was sitting on a rock in Torc Waterfall, I decided that Newport is a good name for a travelling otter since he always in a new port.
Back at the Súgán, a group of us decide to have our photo taken in front of the hostel and I decide that Pa should hold Newport for the photo. Pa is not at all surprised at being asked to hold a plush toy. “20 % of people traveling have something like this.” As we pass off cameras and take turns snapping photos Pa tells a story about a man whose thing was to pose nude in front on world landmarks. “He got arrested in front of the Eiffel Tower and locked up overnight in a Paris jail.”
That night a group of us go out to Yer Man’s pub whose claim to fame is that they are the only pub licensed to serve Guinness in jam jars. I’m not sure why anyone would want to drink Guinness out of a jam jar, but I get one for the novelty. Later, this group joins up with pretty much everyone else at the Killarney Grand for music that unfortunately is mostly Southern rock. But the company is good as is the beer.
In front of the Súgán Hostel. That’s Pa in the middle with the otter. The seated woman is Jessica who will return to this travelogue in later posts.
Footnote: I’ve never been back to Killarney, but if I ever have the opportunity I’d love to go back and stay at the Súgán, even though my hosteling days are past. Pa still runs the Súgán and has expanded it so that there’s a private room in addition to the dorms.
A few years back while looking for information about my favorite place to stay in Ireland I came upon this article. I know I was just a traveler who spent two nights in this family-run hostel, but I was heartbroken when I read it and offer my sympathy to Pa and his family.